New law to allow targeting of gang leaders

June 6, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy unveiled their plans at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

The new law is named The Street Gang Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO for short.

In the past, police have applied pressure to gang leaders during flare-ups in violence, but prosecutors have only been allowed to charge those who actually pull the trigger or sell the drugs.

This law would change that to the same way the feds can convict a mob boss of murder, even if he never touched a gun.

"My gang banging days are over," said a former gang member who identified himself only as Jimmy. "It's been a wrap. I got six kids!"

These self-described "retired" gang members say the streets aren't what they used to be and neither are the criminal elements that seek to control them.

"There's no more structure, unity no more," Jimmy said. "None of that no more. Nobody listens to nobody no more."

The newly passed law will allow local prosecutors to target gangs the same way the feds have dismantled the mob, essentially holding the bosses legally accountable for the actions of their underlings.

"When you're locking up drug dealers selling drugs, within an hour or two after the arrest of 75-80 gang members or drug dealers, they're out again doing it," said State Senator Tony Munoz.

"That's what the goal is in this bill," Alvarez explained. "To be able to join different criminal offenses under one pattern and hopefully get to the guys calling the shots."

Police estimate 75-80 percent of the shootings and murders in the city are gang related.

Intel suggests in Chicago alone there are 69 gangs that have splintered into at least 600 different factions.

"If one gang splits into two, that's doubling the number of gangs which doubles the amount of conflicts that are going on," McCarthy said.

That's the experience of former gang members who wonder how police plan to use big laws to bust up small gangs.

"The youth coming up now, they just want to claim something to be a part of something," said Rico, a former gang member. "They're making their own gangs now."

The local Rico Bill now goes to the governor for his signature.

For years, DuPage County has been taking the unique approach bringing civil cases against gang leaders, stripping them of assets and property.

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